The Chinese have a lot in common with their Western counterparts. However, some concepts are very different. Lucky and unlucky numbers play an essential role in Chinese culture and tradition. They believe the numbers carry particular meanings, most of which are positive. Sometimes, the belief is so strong that they would pay a premium to have more lucky numbers in their phone number, address, license plates, and others.
So, are you curious about “lucky” and “unlucky” numbers in traditional Chinese culture?
Numbers are considered auspicious (lucky) or inauspicious (unlucky) for various reasons, including how the words are pronounced in Cantonese or Mandarin Chinese.
Please keep in mind that luck is what you make of it. The information provided here is for informative purposes only and not to guide you regarding life-changing decisions!
Zero - 0 - Lucky
- Zero in Chinese sounds like “liang,” which means "good".
- It is the beginning of all things and is generally considered a good number. It is also associated with the limitless and eternal Tao.
Two - 2 - Lucky
- Two is considered an auspicious number representing balance, symmetry, and duality.
- One Chinese saying goes, “Good things come in pairs,” and paired symbols such as Double Happiness are common.
- In Cantonese, two sounds like “easy” – As if something that can be gained with little effort.
- Since the results come easy, people avoid this number in bad or unfortunate situations to prevent getting into misery easily.
Six - 6 - Lucky
- The number six sounds like both “flow” and “good luck” in Chinese, so it’s an auspicious number, especially for business.
- It can also sound like the word for “decline,” so it is used with care.
- Unlike the negative connotation in western culture with the number 666, also called the number of the devil, 6 or multiple of 6 are considered lucky in Chinese.
Eight - 8 - Lucky
- Eight is considered the “Luckiest Number.”
- Eight is a favorite number because it sounds like the words for “wealth” and “growth.”
- In some dialects, 8 also sounds like “fortune.”
- It’s considered so auspicious that the 2008 Beijing Olympics began on 8/8/08 at 8 minutes and 8 seconds past 8 pm local time (with mascots representing the Five Elements!)
- Visually, 88 seems similar to the Chinese word for “happiness.”
Nine - 9 - Lucky
- Nine sounds like “enduring” in Chinese, so it symbolizes a long life.
- 9 also symbolizes harmony.
- Due to the above two facts, nine is considered the best wedding choice.
- Nine is considered a sacred number: the pinnacle and most potent of them all.
- After the number 9, everything just goes back to 1 again: 10 = 1+0 = 1, so nine is the ultimate, the end of the numerical cycle.
One - 1 - Neutral
- One represents unity and the idea of conception and the initiation of the activity.
- It is considered neither particularly lucky nor unlucky.
Three - 3 - Neutral
- Three is considered as “Neutral” or “Lucky.”
- Three sounds similar to the word for “birth” or “ever-growing,” so it is considered a very auspicious number.
- It may have some negative energy in romance and weddings in general. So it is recommended to avoid this number in those areas of life.
Five - 5 - Depends on Context
- An auspicious number, many good things come in 5’s: Five Elements, five fingers, the five sacred Chinese mountains, and even 5 types of grain!
- Get to know the five Chinese blessings: Wealth, Happiness, Longevity, Luck, and Prosperity.
- In some connotations, it means “not” or “nothing,” so five is used carefully in combination with other things.
- People may avoid setting up important plans on this date
Seven - 7 - Depends on Context
- Sounding like the words for “arise” and “life essence” and symbolizing “togetherness,” 7 is a very positive number, especially for relationships.
- There are seven gods of prosperity in the Chinese tradition.
- Seven is one of the rare numbers that’s considered lucky in both Eastern and Western cultures.
- The combination of Yin, Yang, and the five elements are usually associated with the number seven.
- Seven also sounds like “cheat” or “to deceive.” It might have some negative connotation attached to it.
- The seventh month, July, is considered a ghost month, and people don’t like to put their important events during this month.
Four - 4 - Unluckiest Number
- Four is known as the “Unluckiest number.” However, it has some positive associations due to the Wealth area in the Bagua map.
- You may have heard that 4 is considered the unluckiest of numbers because its Chinese pronunciation sounds like the word for “death.” Usually, this is the floor skipped on Asian elevators, similar to the 13th floor, often missing in Western buildings.
- However, four still has many positive connotations in things like compass directions and its association with the Wealth sector of the Bagua Map.
- And, of course, double-4 means eight, a very good number indeed.
This Isn't the End
There’s always more to learn about when it comes to Chinese cultural symbols and meanings. Check out our other articles on other symbols and more about Feng Shui from our blog section.